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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Meta-Thought 2: Layers of the Onion

One thing that was amazingly clear this week, after the dust settled, was how wrong and useless the hair-trigger blog posts were in reference to Yahoo's "termination" of talks with Microsoft, and its ad deal with Google.

This little rhythm happens. Yahoo makes an announcement or two. PR informs some bloggers. Other bloggers happen on it. Heck a friend of mine even phoned me to remind me to read the PR email that had just come in with reference to the Yahoo-Google ad deal.

It's getting to the end of a busy day - or it is after hours. And bloggers feel compelled to post. Under that scenario, many (half?) the posts you see are very close to just regurgitating press releases. In that "taking press releases literally" mode, incorrect analyses are actually spread around the industry... for a short time.

But this short time is long enough for many readers to bite off a little bit of wrong info, and move onto their day. The waters get muddied.

Somewhere by the middle of next day, the channel has been refilled by the content of more seasoned journalists, Wall Street analysts, etc. weighing in with more textured coverage. Then, additional facts -- like Yahoo turning down a similar deal with Microsoft -- come to light. Suddenly the knee-jerk posts need to be revised, revisited, and re-released... if anyone's still reading.

Some writers, particularly those at the New York Times and Mike Arrington, seem to gauge the tone of their coverage to the stock price of the company in question. Not always a bad idea, if you want to seem in step for a couple of days. Hence the time lapse of approximately one day before the "Yang you blew it" "massive destruction of shareholder value" posts began coalescing together like one big nascent anti-Yang Googlebomb. As YHOO shares stabilize and creep back up, the vicious attacks will become more sporadic, though we should probably expect daily telegrams and missives in longhand to be sent to Sunnyvale from the Desk of Carl Icahn. If we're lucky, these will be forwarded to Valleywag.

It seems like it's getting harder and harder to digest the news -- and it isn't that the blogosphere writ large is "to blame." But there are clear differences among bloggers: they break down into (i) a rare few who have running insights and access to better facts; (ii) those (like me) who are sometimes insightful and sometimes have access to better facts; and (iii) those who make no attempt to add anything to the discussion, but who are quick at posting "something."

I'm not sure if you can address all of this with an algorithm... or what... but in the case of something like Techmeme or Technorati, it's clear the playing field (like any playing field that rewards visibility) is getting soft-spammed by quick-response rehash posts and even knee-jerk posts that are flat wrong about the facts.

Admit it, gamers, er, I mean bloggers -- we're all a little bit part of the problem.

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